THIS IS the stage premiere of J. P. Donleavy's outrageous novel which charts the progress of grandiloquent Beefy and diffident Balthazar two overprivileged and underworked students at Trinity Dublin.
The only trait these unlikely companions share is a consuming thirst for erotic satisfaction and they are sent down for smuggling a pair of fun-loving colleens into their rooms in a large trunk. The quest continues in London. with Beefy, the carnal. continually repleted. and Balthazar, the spiritual, relentlessly disappointed.
As the curtain rose. the heart sank. Set, uninspired; acting, selfcontained; gentle applause at a star's entrance and a lot of sniggering when the talk turned to sex.
Slowly, however, one adjusted to Donleavy's ornate speeches. which are as intricate as Celtic calligraphy, and the audience warmed to Simon Callow's declamatory performance.
In the second half, even the set waxed poetic weaving dark recesses into post-war chic, accurately mirroring the abysses lapping round Donleavy's heroics.
In one scene towards the end of the play. Balthazar is left by his wife and crushed, eyes the nubile French maid plumping the cushions in his empty WI mansion. But here there is no cheap seduction. The maid celebrates her virile fiance, the master speaks of his loneliness and falls asleep. It is a scene as harrowing as it is unusual, and clearly points the profundity of Donleavy's humanity.
Ron Daniels production honestly articulates the shifting tone, and happily contains both the enormous generosity of Simon Calrow's Beefy and the sophisticated desolation of Patrick Ryecart's Balthazar.